Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn

by Dan Bailey - ? Nov/2011
This route has been read 8,654 times

WalkingStriding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn

Cumbria, ENGLAND

google map Graded difficult ?

Voting 4*
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Distance 7.71 miles (12.40 km)

Total ascent 915m

Steepest climb 36% (1 in 3)

Time 6 hours (Walking)

Start/finish private pay and display car park opposite the Patterdale Hotel; alternatively start in Glenridding, NY395159

Summits included en route:
Hill Striding Edge 863 m
Hill Helvellyn 950 m

Nearest town Ambleside or Penrith

Terrain Well trodden paths throughout. The edges themselves are airy and narrow, with some very limited easy scrambling.

Seasonal variations Under snow this becomes a grade I mountaineering round (only just), and a real classic. Though very low in the grade it is frequently underestimated, and avoidable mishaps occasionally befall the underequipped (crampons and an axe are recommended). Be aware of any avalanche risk on the slopes leading from Striding Edge to the Helvellyn plateau, and watch out for cornices here and on the descent to Swirral Edge - which can also be very icy at times.

In summer conditions Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are airy walks with occasional hands-on moments, but too easy to be classed as grade 1 scrambles (despite what some people might say).

Weather and hill conditions mwis: Lake DistrictMet Office: Lake District

Public transport Occasional infrequent buses from Penrith to Patterdale

Guidebooks The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland, Dan Bailey, pb.Cicerone

Maps OS Explorer OL5 (1:25,000), Harvey/BMC Lake District (1:40,000), OS Landranger 90 (1:50,000)

Accommodation Patterdale Youth Hostel 0845 3719337; Helvellyn Youth Hostel 0845 3719742; Sykeside campsite near Brotherswater 017684 82239; Gillside campsite and bunkhouse in Glenridding 017684 82346; School House B&B Patterdale 01768 482887

Find more Classifieds near this route

Tourist info Ullswater (017684 82414); Grasmere (015394 35245); Pooley Bridge (017684 86530)

Overwhelming popularity cannot diminish the spectacular class of England’s finest ridge walking horseshoe, a circuit of the chiselled crests cupping the Red Tarn cove. Though hands-on challenge is very limited the name Striding Edge seems apt as you lope along its airy spine; ridges might come harder but they don't get better. To beat the crowds avoid weekends and bank holidays at all costs; misanthropes might prefer a lonely dawn start. For best results mountaineers should save this round for winter; it's too easy to be considered a genuine scramble in summertime.

Close this photo
+Helvellyn from Striding Edge, 209 kb
Helvellyn from Striding Edge


Detailed description

NY3956415928 From the A592 in Patterdale follow the single track road up Grisedale, climbing a steep hill and passing a house and a wooded dell. Just beyond the trees turn right on a side track, crossing a bridge to reach a gate on the edge of a field. Take the path through the field. Beyond a stone wall this swings left to make a long rising traverse up Grisedale’s northern slope (a bit of a trudge if there’s soft snow). At about the 710m contour is the so called Hole-in-the-Wall, actually a stile; cross this.

NY3592815515 The Red Tarn face of Helvellyn is now visible ahead. From the path junction take the route southwest along the broad crest. The ridge soon narrows into Striding Edge.

+Striding Edge, 108 kb
Striding Edge
© Dan Bailey -

From a minor top the crest continues as a gently serrated curving knife edge. Though it only demands very basic scrambling Striding Edge has a superbly airy feel (if you're really averse to heights a get-out path slinks along the N flank). Cross a level rock ‘pavement’, then continue over little bumps to reach a short downclimb just before Striding Edge meets the main mountainside. Negotiate this via a short broken groove on the left – polish shows the way. Beyond a little gap is a final rocky barrier, which can be skirted on the right or taken direct. A steep slope now leads to the summit plateau. From the memorial cairn at the top of this slope follow the plateau rim to the summit windbreak.
NY3424615072 Continue north along the edge, passing a trig point to reach a marker cairn above the drop-off point (hopefully not literally) for Swirral (not 'squirrel') Edge. Though shorter, this is a worthy twin to Striding Edge. Initially the descent is fairly steep and needs caution if it’s icy or corniced. Sticking with the crest, scramble down a broken rock buttress to reach easier ground. The ridge remains sharply pronounced for a while, though an avoiding path soon appears on the southern flank if you prefer. Beyond a shallow rise is a small col, and the end of the good stuff.

The outlying pyramid of Catstye Cam can be bagged from here in about 10 minutes (optional). Back at the col, a well trodden path drops quickly into the cove.

NY3504615425 Cross the outflow from Red Tarn and continue beneath the northern slope of Striding Edge back to Hole-in-the-Wall. Return the way you came.

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